Government is Not the Problem- Corruption and Excessive Bureaucratization to Blame

 (goodgovernmentga.blogspot.com)

In the effort to provide some counterbalance to prevailing opinion in this here “conservative” territory- I find much food for thought in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.  This Authoritative source is most important in discerning the Church’s mind in interpreting the signs of our times- the time corresponding to our personal watch.

I offer a couple of paragraphs from the Compendium’s Chapter 8 on “The Political Community”.  This chapter is a must-read for all people of goodwill who like to voice an opinon about what is the proper way to approach and regard the political community- according to general principles.  I especially like the phrases:  “put power into practice as service”, and “Among the deformitites of the democratic system, political corruption is one of the most serious because it betrays at one and the same time both moral principles and the norms of social justice”, and “The role of those working in public administration is not to be conceived as impersonal or bureaucratic, but rather as an act of generous assistance for citizens, undertaken with a spirit of service”.

When it comes to politics, I like what I read in official Church documents, but in the liberal or conservative press/blogs- not so much. Sure, the Church could have some of Her prudential judgments off a bit, but it seems to me that this Church of ours has seen a lot of liberals and conservatives come and go like the wind over many of centuries.  I tend to trust the aged, the wise, and those with maternal and paternal affection for all humanity and all of God’s creation- which is why I celebrate my Catholicity and not the Left and Right ideologies. 

So- here is some good stuff to consider from the Compendium,  for me it indicates that statecraft and public service are noble endeavors, but we have let the barbarians have run of the place . Just one man’s unpopular opinion:

c. Moral components of political representation

410. Those with political responsibilities must not forget or underestimate the moral dimension of political representation, which consists in the commitment to share fully in the destiny of the people and to seek solutions to social problems. In this perspective, responsible authority also means authority exercised with those virtues that make it possible to put power into practice as service [842] (patience, modesty, moderation, charity, efforts to share), an authority exercised by persons who are able to accept the common good, and not prestige or the gaining of personal advantages, as the true goal of their work.

411. Among the deformities of the democratic system, political corruption is one of the most serious [843] because it betrays at one and the same time both moral principles and the norms of social justice. It compromises the correct functioning of the State, having a negative influence on the relationship between those who govern and the governed. It causes a growing distrust with respect to public institutions, bringing about a progressive disaffection in the citizens with regard to politics and its representatives, with a resulting weakening of institutions. Corruption radically distorts the role of representative institutions, because they become an arena for political bartering between clients’ requests and governmental services. In this way political choices favour the narrow objectives of those who possess the means to influence these choices and are an obstacle to bringing about the common good of all citizens.

412. As an instrument of the State, public administration at any level — national, regional, community — is oriented towards the service of citizens: “Being at the service of its citizens, the State is the steward of the people’s resources, which it must administer with a view to the common good”.[844] Excessive bureaucratization is contrary to this vision and arises when “institutions become complex in their organization and pretend to manage every area at hand. In the end they lose their effectiveness as a result of an impersonal functionalism, an overgrown bureaucracy, unjust private interests and an all-too-easy and generalized disengagement from a sense of duty”.[845] The role of those working in public administration is not to be conceived as impersonal or bureaucratic, but rather as an act of generous assistance for citizens, undertaken with a spirit of service.

19 Responses to Government is Not the Problem- Corruption and Excessive Bureaucratization to Blame

  1. Tim Shipe says:

    Here’s an interesting link from the author of – The Trillion Dollar Meltdown- on Tax Myths- http://commonwealmagazine.org/tax-myths

  2. Ike says:

    Tim, could you give me an idea of where you draw the line. I don’t mean this as a provocation, but where exactly do you say, “Government is not appropriate here,” or perhaps, “government is appropriate here, but not x amount,”?

  3. Mike Petrik says:

    Ike, fair question and I’ll be interested in Tim’s answer.
    In my experience, liberals all too often start with these rather naive premises: Assume, in general, the people we place in power are wise, honest, and well-intentioned; and assume, in general, the people they will direct government to help are at least honest and well-intentioned.
    These premises can be accepted only by people who live in either sheltered circumstances or an alternative universe.

  4. T. Shaw says:

    St. Jude, pray for us.

  5. RL says:

    I’m a proponent of government. Man is fallen and prone to exploit each other or turn an eye away from justice, not to mention to other faults like a the drive for pleasure or comfort becoming disordered that often result in injustice or harm. Those are some of the primary reasons to reject anarchy. They’re also the primary reasons to control or restrict government.

  6. Paul D. says:

    The problem is that after reading the Compendium you quickly realize that even if you agree with the Church on every one of the priciples (as a faithful catholic ought) it still comes down to the ability of your fellow man to exercise sound prudential judgement. If that realization doesn’t scare you, it should.

  7. Tim Shipe says:

    I don’t necessarily draw arbitrary lines in the sand when taking the various political authorities responsibilities under consideration. I think a good Catholic case is to be made that the combination of political authorities have the duty to do all to ensure the common good- not that they should have to do everything in some kind of totalitarian concept of governmental power. We all have duties to society- in solidarity- that includes all individuals and corporations- but the buck has to stop somewhere and that implies that someone/some group of somebodies has the power to do something about some type of injustice that is not being resolved in society- best if governing authorities do not have to weigh in- but depending on the gravity and scale of some injustice, the white hats will need to step in.

    Some would like to dismiss all such talk as “nanny” governance, I prefer to see it as maternal/paternal governance- the philosopher kings- duly elected and accountable to the people of society- if everyone was competent and wise we wouldn’t need authority which derives from God as Scripture would have it- but if everyone was competent, wise and morally accountable- we wouldn’t need God I suppose- that would be a utopian vision. I believe that the Catholic social doctrine as a whole corpus represents the best there is for properly forming a social conscience and having the overlapping moral principles to guide us into civilizations of love- which is the only goal of any just society- and the CST simply cannot be dumbed down into the liberal or conservative ideological presuppositions- no matter how hard the ideologues try. And it is laughable to try to pin me down to a liberal ideology- I get it from all sides- so I take that as a good sign that I am in the world but not of the world.

    All I ever advise ultimately is for all persons of goodwill to simply read and study and pray through the CAtholic social doctrine’s authoritative documents, and if we disagree on general or specific agenda items- well so be it- I don’t condemn anyone to hell even if I vehemently dispute someone’s opinions. I belong to Jesus Christ- I pray for His guidance, and He led me to His Church- and that has worked out quite nicely. If I fail to convince someone of my views- then the fault is mine in the conveyance, or the fault is in the hearer for some cause, or I am simply wrong and stand in need of correction. As such I continue to read as much as I have limited time for from those on the Left and Right- and I try to throw out my complaints – sometimes polemically- in both directions. Perhaps I am operating under inspiration of the Holy Spirit- perhaps not- so I humbly submit my thoughts- even if my rhetoric is sometimes that of a fighter- can one fight with words and still be humble? I’m thinking of writing a little piece- “Forgive me Father, for I have Blogged” because it is so difficult to come across with love in the socio-political debates- even in Catholic circles.

    As for particular areas of government intervention- I would love to see the right to life enshrined in international/national laws, and I like big projects like the Space Program, and the Human Genome Project- see Francis Collin’s book on the latter, and his experience of working with government support- as well his conversion from brillant atheist to brillant Christian- someone even Chris Hitchens seems to love and respect!

  8. T. Shaw says:

    Dulce taxare inexpertis.

  9. Ike says:

    Please Tim, I don’t mean this as a slam, but we understand at this point that you consider yourself neither liberal nor conservative; I know how that sounds, and I don’t mean it that way, but please, we understand how you describe yourself.
    “I think a good Catholic case is to be made that the combination of political authorities have the duty to do all to ensure the common good.” What do you mean by “all?” I mean, you don’t give what you think is beyond government perview, only what you think is within. I know you don’t like “arbitrary lines,” but I’m not asking for anything arbitrary; I am asking for what things you legitimately believe are beyond the government, by virtue of the fact that you fundamentally belive that dimension x is not why governments exist.
    I’m asking for those things to which, you belive only families and individuals have a right, even if the government believes it’s for the people’s own good.
    By the way, government ought not be paternal or maternal. Here is why. Man cannot exist without parents. Man can exist without the government. The authority of mother and father are directly from God, and enshrined in natural law; parents have authority over the children’s food, education, dating life, some authority in their spiritual life, money, etc. The authority of states, while it may be lawful, and therefore, indirectly from God, does not come in the same manner. To say that it does is commensurate with the divine right of kings. I’d prefer a nanny state to a state with maternal pretensions.

  10. Elaine Krewer says:

    “Liberals all too often start with these rather naive premises: Assume, in general, the people we place in power are wise, honest, and well-intentioned; and assume, in general, the people they will direct government to help are at least honest and well-intentioned. These premises can be accepted only by people who live in either sheltered circumstances or an alternative universe.”

    So are we then to assume exactly the opposite — that in general persons in authority are unwise, dishonest, and corrupt and that in general, people who seek help from the government are merely freeloaders gaming the system?

    That, in many respects, would be just as bad if not worse than assuming everyone’s good intentions. That leads to things like, for example, poor widows being denied Medicaid assistance for their nursing home care because the “mite” they faithfully gave to their church every week is treated the same in the eyes of the state as a wealthy person deliberately trying to dispose of or conceal significant assets he/she could have used to pay for care. It leads to things like massive education bureaucracies based on the presumption that parents cannot be trusted to educate their children properly.

    Again, the trick is to find a proper balance between these two extremes — to acknowledge the possibility (or better yet, probability) of authority, rights, and benefits being abused and to institute reasonable safeguards against them, without treating everyone with a corrosive “guilty until proven innocent” kind of cynicism.

    “Man can exist without the government.”

    In a world without original sin, that would be true. However, unless you plan on moving to a deserted island or to Antartica, chances are you are going to want at least enough government to keep you and your family from being robbed or killed or conquered by some foreign tyrant. You are probably also going to want at least some kind of infrastructure like driveable roads and running water.

    National security, law enforcement and public infrastructure are what I would consider the absolute bare minimum things government MUST provide to insure the “common good”. Everything else is optional, and is open to debate and to periodic readjustment based on economic and social conditions.

  11. Mike Petrik says:

    Elaine,
    No, we are to assume that people are both good and bad, wise and foolish. That is why the Framers crafted checks and balances; it is also why they favored and envisioned small government — neither no government nor large government.
    When lawmakers craft laws they must assume that people will alter their behavior in order to benefit from those laws, even unwisely. The massive welfare schemes of the 1960s and 1970s contributed greatly to the break-up of the American family, and frankly it was clear to any person with a sober-minded understanding of human nature that this is exactly what would happen.

  12. Tim Shipe says:

    Mike- I get that you get that I consider myself- not liberal, not conservative- but also a bit of both, just not exclusively. I don’t mean to annoy those who are regular readers/commentators, I am just trying to fill in some details for those who may be reading this blog or my stuff for the first time- so just skip over some of my material as it is meant for a different target audience- to bring newbies up to speed- lest they put me into an ideological box and disregard my opinions out-of-hand.

    Now to your point about the type and responsibility of governing authorities- I am basing my views primarily on Catholic social doctrine- not any particular political school of thought, and not the Founding Fathers- I am first a Christian, and my conversion to Catholicism owed a big hattip to the social teachings of the Church- so if the Church is out-to-lunch on the socio-political worldview, then my Catholicism is very suspect- of course since the Social Doctrine is Doctrine, and not an optional read as Father Corapi recently preached- then I am doing things the right way as an orthodox Catholic. As for the political authority guaranteeing the conditions for the common good- I recommend the following from the Compendium of Social Doctrine:

    The king, chosen by Yahweh (cf. Dt 17:15; 1 Sam 9:16) and consecrated by him (cf. 1 Sam 16:12-13), is seen as God’s son (cf. Ps 2:7) and is to make God’s dominion and plan of salvation visible (cf. Ps 72). The king, then, is to be the defender of the weak and the guarantor of justice for the people. The denunciations of the prophets focus precisely on the kings’ failure to fulfil these functions (cf. 1 Kg 21; Is 10:1-4; Am 2:6-8, 8:4-8; Mic 3:1-4).

    381. Praying for rulers, which Saint Paul recommended even as he was being persecuted, implicitly indicates what political authority ought to guarantee: a calm and tranquil life led with piety and dignity (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-2).

    Positive law must guarantee that fundamental human needs are met.

    389. The political community pursues the common good when it seeks to create a human environment that offers citizens the possibility of truly exercising their human rights and of fulfilling completely their corresponding duties. “Experience has taught us that, unless these authorities take suitable action with regard to economic, political and cultural matters, inequalities between citizens tend to become more and more widespread, especially in the modern world, and as a result human rights are rendered totally ineffective and the fulfilment of duties is compromised

    394. Political authority must guarantee an ordered and upright community life without usurping the free activity of individuals and groups but disciplining and orienting this freedom, by respecting and defending the independence of the individual and social subjects, for the attainment of the common good. Political authority is an instrument of coordination and direction by means of which the many individuals and intermediate bodies must move towards an order in which relationships, institutions and procedures are put at the service of integral human growth. Political authority, in fact, “whether in the community as such or in institutions representing the State, must always be exercised within the limits of morality and on behalf of the dynamically conceived common good, according to a juridical order enjoying legal status. When such is the case citizens are conscience-bound to obey”.[802]

  13. Tim Shipe says:

    Mike- as a follow-up- as a practical matter, I might look at the situation of society and try to gauge whether more freedom from legal restriction is resulting in more justice for all, or less, and then go with the flow that is leading on to the common good- statecraft is more art than ideology for me- government needs to respect the freedoms of the citizenry, but also coordinate the various players and shapers of the culture/society- this is why I don’t agree with the “government must always and everywhere be severely limited” thinking- because sometimes bad stuff is going down and we need some white hats with real power- the trick for me is getting actual white hats into power in a democratic process- and then measuring their proper use or their abuse of power by the checks and balances in the system- formal and informal- like open governance, a free press, and a vigilant civic-minded populace. I spent many months in so-called second and third world countries, and one thing they had in common was weak governance, extensive corruption, and excessive bureaucracies, which led to societies with poor infrastructure, poor educational opportunities, foreign corporate dominance, corrupt law enforcement, low technology and living standards. The solution to such chronic problems could not be found in any one simple ideological fix. As Pope B has stated in his last encyclical- there are many overlapping factors- and as such we should free ourselves from ideologies- I would say that that freedom of the mind and heart is the real first stop on the road to peace and prosperity.

  14. Phillip says:

    Though it would seem, since the Church offers no specific solutions to the problems but only principles for guiding solutions, that ideologies are not per se bad. That is if the ideologies are based on solid socio-politico-historical understanding. This will of course lead to competing claims as people will start from different premises, but I have no problem with that. Let the best argument win and see how it plays out.

    We’re seeing that now with health care reform. I think, at least for some, it was a good faith effort at providing for the common good. However, it does look like it will increase costs significantly, decrease services and not provide 100% coverage. All this while potentially cutting payments to hospitals that care for the poor and indigent and compromise their survivability. Thus the long-term common good will likely be compromised unless efforts to significant reform the reform (yes I stole the line) is enacted.

    But then people of good faith will dismiss my assertions or if they do accept them disagree with what reforms will be needed. And they will be good Catholics applying CST.

  15. Tim Shipe says:

    Well- that’s right Phillip- as long as we don’t conclude out-of-hand that the governing authorities should have no access to the powers necessary for coordinating the various interests that drive the societal common good- I think we can find many particular issues with potential for righteous debate.

    Health care reform is certainly a great example- other than my own confusion over whether there is abortion coverage in Obama Care- I was following the Bishops’ – both my local Bishop and the collective voice of the U.S. Bishops- that is my usual deal- even the Bishops’ Conference views are something that faithful Catholics must at minimum take into our conscience for serious consideration- according to my own Bishop at the time- and I’m not sure if that view is a minority view among all U.S. Bishops.

  16. Phillip says:

    Though I would disagree with you that this was something that was necessary for governing authorities, at least at the federal level, to involve themselves in. This, as well as disagreement with the bishops’ prudential decision to support it (which was not unanimous)is also allowed by CST.

  17. Tim Shipe says:

    No doubt Phillip- I didn’t bring up the health care issue because I thought it was clear cut on the areas beyond abortion funding- I brought it up because it is one of those things where I find it hard to come away with a clear vision of what is right and what might harm the system of health care delivery in our country. My own musings have gone around the idea- not of the government opening up a replacement for private insurance HMO’s, but rather the U.S. Bishops’ could help set up a Catholic non-profit insurance entity- working at the diocesan level to bring as many Catholics into the plan as possible- with no funding of contraceptives or abortion, with a strong holistic/theological tie-in, we are One Body in Christ- we need to be focused on the spiritual and physical health of our brothers and sisters in Christ- we might be have even more incentive to care and share good advice if we are more directly paying more out of our pockets for the preventable illnesses and diseases of our brethren. This wouldn’t be the same as being tied to other people as a faceless socialist mass of humanity- this would be a way to provide for American Catholics a way around corrupt government bureaucracies, and also away from greedy HMO’s. This idea is not one that comes directly from a social doctrine document- it is my own application of the moral principles, and as in the study of Church History- when the government and business communities are failing to deliver common good promoting options- there are times where the Church must get more involved in areas of life more practical and material until I suppose the market and the political authorities catch back up and reform to the point where Catholics can get back into the pool- so to speak

  18. Ike says:

    Tim, I have a small point of reference, that I feel may be confused: Mister Petrick and I are not the same person; He’s Mike and I’m Ike. I think you’re getting us mixed up.
    Anyway, in a previous article you implied that one could not believe in -what I will here call for lack of better terms- economic liberty and restricted government, and remain orthodox. I am not asking you to agree with the following, but do you believe that the following interpretation is somehow divorced from or a perversion of the deposit of faith?

    “The king, then, is to be the defender of the weak and the guarantor of justice for the people.”
    The bishops are quite right, and we must remember this in light of Exodus 22:23- which deals with litigation, granted- and in light of Leviticus 19:5. While it is dutiful to protect the weak in a way that insures their rights are not violated (e.g. handicapped spaces), to institutionalize partiality to some one of sound mind and body because they are weak or poor is wrong. To in anyway make them dependent on the state is wrong, for reasons we’ll get to.

    “Political authority ought to guarantee: a calm and tranquil life led with piety and dignity.” Great, but let’s keep in mind that a life of piety and dignity does not mean a world in which there is no suffering as a consequence of not working. 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

    “[A good state] offers citizens the possibility of truly exercising their human rights and of fulfilling completely their corresponding duties.” Preserve law and order, and enforce contracts.

    “Political authority, in fact, ‘whether in the community as such or in institutions representing the State, must always be exercised within the limits of morality and on behalf of the dynamically conceived common good, according to a juridical order enjoying legal status.’“ According to the legal order of this country- the Constitution- most of what the government does these days is in violation of this principle.

    “[States should] orient freedom…by respecting and defending the independence of the individual and social subjects, for the attainment of the common good.” So how do we achieve the common good? We respect and defend the independence of the individual, for freedom’s sake. Does it respect his independence to make him dependent on government? No, and this all plays into a word your probably sick of, “subsidiarity.” The aforementioned space program for instance, violates this principle. For Leo XIII says that governments ought not do what others could do for themselves, and space exploration is just such a case. These days, there are pioneers who are attempting amazing things out in the deserts of the US without government help.

    I think it is fair then to say, that to believe as a matter of general principle, in the empowerment of the family, church, and voluntary organization through limiting the government (an institution -whether we like it or not- run by and through force), is not heterodox. I think Catholics may rightfully say along with the author of “Orthodoxy,” Chesterton, “all government is an ugly necessity.”

    I can hear your objections: The Church says, “Experience has taught us that, unless these authorities take suitable action with regard to economic, political and cultural matters, inequalities between citizens tend to become more and more widespread, especially in the modern world, and as a result human rights are rendered totally ineffective,” and Churchmen do say that, but that is a matter of economic theory, historical review, and statistical study. Catholics are completely free to believe that deregulation does not lead to maldistribution of income. One must readily admit that that premise is incomporable with the Real Presence, the Assumption, or the Inerrancy of Scripture. The Church does not have Authority to make a statement like that infallibly, as Leo XIII notes in Rerum Novarum.

    The entire manner of analysing the state presented here seems to be divorced of a very healthy element in American society- a distrust and deep suspicion of government. “Put not your faith in princes.”

    I am orthodox, and so were the Scholastics; I’m sure you’ve heard the claim that they were practically libertarian on economics, and from what I have read this seems to bear out.

    *I wrote this before I read the last posts, so I’ll just add, I had a similar idea about health care; I think amovement away from the mercantilist mess of the insurance companies and the socialist mess of, well, socialism is the only way.

  19. Ike says:

    Oh and Elaine, I’m not advocating anarchy; I’m simply pointing out that a man does not owe his existence to the state while he does owe it to his parents. Men do, and have, existed without governments, but no one has ever walked the earth without parents. Their authority is different in kind, and I don’t think you’d disagree.

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